GQ: Mark Penn On Why She Lost

Was the inevitability thing you? No. Inevitability is a concept from the opponents, okay? We ran, though, as somebody who was the front-runner, as somebody who had the strength. She had the experience. She had, you know, then, the political establishment behind her. You know, front-runners typically win against challengers. That's been the pattern. So it was never a notion that she was inevitable. It was a notion, though, that she was running as a big candidate, the kind of person you want to turn to as president and you say, "I really believe this is somebody who can do this job, and do this job the way the great presidents have done this job."

So who started it? No, I think the Obama campaign called us inevitable. And that stuck with the media. But that wasn't something that we were actively selling. We were selling the idea that she was ready to be president, that she had broad support across the country, and that she was the candidate who could win.

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Highlights from the GQ Interview with Mark Penn (cont.)

What happened in October? How was that the turning point? Well, October of '07 we were forty points ahead. What happened in October, or really the beginning of November, was that Barack Obama personally attacked Hillary Clinton. Called her disingenuous. They attacked her in the debate on the driver's licenses… And until then, basically, people were declaring the race over. The message strategy had been so successful that everybody was declaring it over. And they got so frustrated that what the Obama camp did was that they restrategized. And they concluded, obviously, the only thing they could do was attack her personally. It took us a while to kind of throw off those basic attacks. And I think that it was a tough organization to respond to that. You know, the response to a lot of those attacks became "Let's do the soft, personal stuff." And that didn't work.

Go back to the licenses. What happened was, Obama announced the day before [the debate] that he was gonna go after her personally. Called her disingenuous in The New York Times. Now, at that moment, and up until that moment, you know, we had won the experience primary; we won the new-ideas primary. A lot of the leads that we would rely upon in the big states were already built up. He was fading in the national polls, and he said, "Look, the strategy here isn't working. I've gotta do something different." And Obama did. He attacked her. And a lot of the press egged him on.

But he should have. You would have, right? I would have, yeah! But… So that attack, on the driver's licenses, was then played an absurd number of times by the media.

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...what other things could have turned the ship around? …the group that did the budget had set a goal of raising 75 million and keeping 25 million aside. In fact, over a hundred million was raised, and 25 million wasn't there.

So they just pissed away way too much money on Iowa? Well, I still don't know what happened—whether it was Iowa. Because even Iowa was not that large a percentage of a hundred million.

That's a huge amount, 25 million. Do you think there'll be some awful scandal about where it all went? No.

It was just ineptitude? I just think it will be very high. [He means the amount of money that was pissed away.]

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